Under the Radar
As we approach the quarter mark of the NBA season, I tried to figure out over the weekend what is going right and what is going wrong with my fantasy teams. This week I'll start with the positive. It seems there has been a common thread to all of my teams that currently occupy the upper-third of their league - that's the overachieving rookie.
Heading into the season all the hoopla with regard to rookies surrounded Blake Griffin and the defection of Ricky Rubio. Many of the other draftees who were less heralded have made a huge fantasy impact to this point. The most obvious has been Brandon Jennings, who has surpassed any and all expectations thus far with averages of 21.8 points, 5.7 assists and four rebounds. Tyreke Evans has made the most of injuries in Sacramento to average 18.8 points, five rebounds and 4.7 assists. Stephen Curry, Johnny Flynn, Toney Douglas and Darren Collison have all had their ups and downs, but proven to be worthy of starting spots at times so far this year. Most of the aforementioned had ADPs of more than 100 before the season started and have catapulted their fantasy squads to the top of their league.
This trend isn't limited to the current season. Last year everyone knew and drafted Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo in appropriate positions in the draft. The real steals for fantasy teams came in the later rounds when Russell Westbrook, Eric Gordon and Kevin Love went. Many other rookies went on to have an impact, so here is my point. Next season while everyone is drooling over John Walls or Derrick Favors, don't forget to take a look at the other rookies. Use a late-round pick to gamble on a rookie with upside instead of taking a veteran who you know what to expect from. The waiver wire and this article will be here to help if they don't pan out.
Now onto our weekly look at player minutes, roto categories that waiver-wire players can help with and new position eligibility.
The minutes section is subjective, as players who are playing more are mentioned. This does not necessarily mean they are an immediate pickup or have a significant fantasy impact. Take note of these players, they may be in line to make a future consideration or be worthy of a roster spot in deep leagues.
C.J. Watson, G, Vlad Radmanovic, F, GS - Both players have seen a boost in court time with the team battling multiple injuries. Watson totaled 68 minutes the last two games and rewarded the Warriors with solid numbers across the board. He scored 32 points, pulled down nine boards, handed out eight assists and recorded four steals. Radmanovic has averaged more than 32 minutes a contest the last five games. But while he's had plenty of opportunity, Radmanovic has only averaged 9.2 points and 7.4 rebounds during those five games. If you're desperate for help at either PG or F next week in weekly leagues both are decent options with the Warriors playing four games, just hope Vlad avoids snowboarding over the weekend.
Donte Greene, G, SAC - Greene has gotten more time the last two weeks with several Kings on the mend. He's shown flashes up his immense upside, scoring 24 points twice during that time. Greene had one of the more disappointing rookie campaigns and ended up averaging only 3.8 PPG last year. Remember that Greene was a one-and-done at Syracuse and three-point-shooting small forwards who are 6-foot-11 are hard to come by. He's someone to keep an eye on in keeper leagues and a potential sleeper in redraft leagues next season.
Jonas Jerebko, F, DET - Jerebko has become the de facto starter with Tayshaun Prince still sidelined with back problems. JJ has played at least 30 minutes in each of the Pistons' last four games. Just a rookie, Jerebko is a bit ahead of the normal learning curve. He gave up a scholarship to play for the University at Buffalo, and instead went on to play four seasons of professional basketball in Italy and his native Sweden. Despite the increase in playing time it's hard to recommend him at this point, but at 22 he still has the potential
to contribute in the future.
Here are some players who can help your fantasy squad in specific categories.
Willie Green, G, PHI - Green, not Jrue Holiday, has stepped in to pick up the scoring slack left from the Lou Williams' injury. He's played 38 minutes in each of the last two games, scoring 40 points, grabbing nine boards while collecting three steals and three blocks. Yes, the Sixers signed Allen Iverson, but there's no assurance that AI is in shape to contribute or pick up the offense right away. As a result, Green is a nice play in the short-term and possibly longer if the Iverson experiment doesn't work.
Martell Webster, G, POR - Webster has been lighting it up from beyond the arc, hitting 12 treys in his last four games. The cousin of Jason Terry, he is one of the taller guards at 6-7, which helps him provide rebounds and blocked shots also. He'll continue to get open looks with defenses focusing on stopping Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, so take a flier on him if you need threes.
Ben Wallace, C, DET - Wallace has channeled the 2002 Wallace recently, the year he averaged 15.4 rebounds a game. Over his last three games, he's averaging 14.3 rebounds, including a season-high 18 on Sunday. Remember, he'll throw in a few blocks here and there, but other than that don't count on the big man for too much past rebounds.
Devin Brown, G, NO - OK, this is a category I hardly ever highlight, but Brown has done enough lately to earn some recognition. Brown has gotten more playing time with the injury to Chris Paul but has posted those mediocre numbers across the board. Throw out a bomb in Miami, and Brown has averaged 10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists over his last six games. Let's get back to the free-throw shooting. Brown has hit his last 18 free throws spanning five games (3.6 attempts per game). Remember that it's not just the percentage a player shoots but how many attempts he gets that is just as important.
Every league has different rules regarding eligibility. Always check your rules to make sure your league recognizes the new position a player may be eligible to play.
Article first appeared on 12/3/09